OMG UK Women’s Speed Mentoring Session

Clare Dyckhoff

On a cold and somewhat blustery Friday afternoon in September, Google HQ was transformed from a hotspot of progressive technology into a hub of networking, key notes and inspiring advice for the women of Resolution and programmatic across OMG UK.

This initiative, organised by SEO Account Director, Jimisha Thakrar of Manning Gottlieb OMD, came about in a bid for the women of Resolution and programmatic across OMG UK to have the opportunity to empower one another through speed mentoring; a way of helping people within our organisations to develop new skills, approach real-time challenges and look at how we progress in our careers.

Mentoring is a powerful personal development tool and we have the privilege of sitting within a wider media group comprised of talented, skilled and progressive women, all of whom lead some of the most vital arms of offering within our agencies. This made it the perfect opportunity to think bigger than just what we do here at Manning Gottlieb OMD. It was a way to mingle and ask the mentors some of the burning questions on our lips.

With a panel of mentors spanning client side to agency, heads of department and managing partners to directors, the mentors came from across Oracle, PHD UK, Virgin Media, Drum, OMD UK, Charlotte Tilbury, and our very own Head of SEO, to name but a few.

As soon as Jimisha kicked off the day with her vision for session and the crucial reasons why we were doing it, it was clear this Friday afternoon was going to be stimulating, moving and all the other adjectives you’d associate with sitting in a room of tenacious, talented and inspiring women who walk the hallways of our agencies on a daily basis.

A highlight of the day was the emotive and honestly raw keynote from Sam Phillips, (Chief Marketing Officer, Managing Director OMG Ethnic and Assistant Dean, Omnicom University). Though it soon became clear that Sam’s illustrious career history is just a fraction of what makes her someone to aspire to be like.

An incredible example of a woman working in the media industry, Sam is the embodiment of positive spirit, relentless hard work, but also not losing sight of what is important in life…family. Despite having to experience some of the most heart-wrenching and testing of situations a person should never have to endure.

Questions are constantly raised, even in 2017, around whether women can ‘have it all’ when it comes to a family and a career. Sam is just one extraordinary example of why questions like this are now redundant. Because yes, women can have burgeoning careers. Women can have a family. But this isn’t to say that combining these two elements equates to ‘having it all’, because Sam expressed that despite having both a job and family she adores, she does not actually have it all.

After the room was left moist-eyed and tissue-less, the mentoring session began. We were given ten minutes with each group of 2-3 mentors and handed a complete open space to ask what we wanted. It was less about asking how to get promoted or ask for a pay rise but more how to deal with challenging team dynamics.

Having the opportunity to ask questions and raise queries in an open space is not something we have time to do every single day. But this is not to say we shouldn’t do it. Sometimes we are affected by something, be it at home or in the workplace, that we think is unique to us. But what the speed mentoring event showed is that nine times out of ten, something we may be concerned about as an individual is affecting someone else too. It is only by addressing, challenging and speaking about it that means we can start doing something to change it.

Being able to network with different people not just within MG OMD but across the wider OMG network was a great lesson in thinking openly and differently. It was a way to share any concerns and ask advice from those who know things best, who have lived it and experienced it.

Because to truly understand the context in which you work, you need to be aware of what goes on outside the walls in which you spend the week.

Sitting in the room among executives, managers, and account directors, common feelings began to arise. Such as the importance of knowing what is right for us as individuals, knowing what is important in terms of where we work, being open to failing…and learning. Women in business are also often faced with the question of the eternal work/life struggle. For Sam however, work is only part of that life. She refreshingly quoted Nancy Koehn, Historian at the Harvard Business School which struck a chord with the room; “You know all that stuff about work/life balance? Forget it. You’ve only got one life.”

We work within a bold, brave and progressive group, widely acknowledged across the globe, so we should be bold and progressive in our careers and our personal lives too. So that it isn’t just when we’re at Bankside during the week, or a specially organised speed mentoring event like this one, but assessing the lessons we got from Friday’s session and implementing them immediately – because the only way to make a change is to be brave, proactive and embrace the unknown.

Sam Phillips hit the nail on the head when she told the room to run towards the fear. Forgive yourself, bring your best self to work, and if you know something is right, just do it. Because the time is now to get going. You’ll never know where you’ll go, if you don’t.

Special thanks goes to all those who helped make this tremendous event happen: Jimisha Thakrar (MG OMD), Felicia Vidal (OMG UK), Alice Askwith (PHD) Christina Smaragdi (PHD) and all the brilliant mentors for coming along and being so open on the day.